Albert Read VanDyck was born on April 1,1867 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the fourth child of railroad engineer Henry VanDyck and his wife, Josephine VanDyck. In the 1870 census, the family of six was living in Des Moines, Iowa. By the 1900 census, Albert was a boarder in a Minneapolis hotel . (1)
In 1904, VanDyck was a draftsman in Harry Wild Jones’s architectural office. In 1906, he enrolled in the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts and by 1907 was back in Jones’s office where he continued as a full-time architect until he set up his own practice in 1910. (2)
Interestingly, although VanDyck designed many residences, he apparently never built one for himself and resided in various hotels in Minneapolis for the rest of his life.
VanDyck was dedicated not only to his work but to furthering the knowledge and education of his fellow architects. Beginning in 1904, he was active in forming the Twin City Architectural Club, an organization for architectural draftsmen. He became the club’s second vice president (i.e., the “under-vice president”). Hal Eads was president, and George H. Blewett was first vice president. The purpose of the society was to study architecture and all matters pertaining to the “allied arts and crafts.” (3) In a Minneapolis Tribune article, club secretary C. B. Chapman stated “Lectures by able men will be frequent in the programs of our club, while competitions in various branches will be promoted, and at least one exhibition given annually. Memberships will include all those engaged in architecture and the allied arts.” VanDyck was among those “able men” who presented lectures to the club. In a 1908 lecture, he described his recent trip to Europe during which what “impressed him was the difference in the entrance to European cities and the entrance to Minneapolis.” (4) In 1907, the club split into St. Paul and Minneapolis factions and, at the 1909 annual meeting of the renamed Minneapolis Architectural Club, VanDyck was elected president. (5) On March 16, 1910, as part of a “vaudeville show” in a meeting with a St. Patrick’s Day theme, VanDyck was described, tongue-in-cheek, as an “Irish song bird [who] rendered a pleasing selection of Irish tunes.” (6)
In 1911, in conjunction with the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, the Minneapolis Architectural Club was instrumental in establishing a school for architecture students. Classes began in January of that year in the Meyers Arcade building with a faculty of local architects. Theodore John Keane, director of the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts, wrote that “The School of Architecture of the Minneapolis Architectural Club is the greatest effort attempted in the northwest ... to give young men an opportunity for thorough training along practical, artistic lines, a training that will qualify them in the future to handle all kinds and conditions and classes of work which may arise, and which the general public now appears to think can be handled only by so-called specialists. We need all the help and loyal support we can get to make a success of it.” VanDyck was on the school’s faculty presenting courses in “building construction and structure [and] lectures on architectural history, from prehistoric architecture of the Egyptians to the more modern architecture.” (7)
In 1916, VanDyck was selected as a specialist in wall and concrete structures to co-design the Garden Terrace Theater at Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota. The theater “consists of an open-air stage fashioned after the stage of Shakespeare's time and an auditorium seating 2,500 people, all enclosed by a garden wall and hedge. The architectural and landscape design is based on the beautiful old villa gardens of Italy. This theater is said to stand unique among outdoor theaters in the United States. Although located on the college campus … it is designed for community as well as college....” (8)
VanDyck designed numerous houses in south Minneapolis (see list below) with a concentration around Lake of the Isles. In 1922, he was awarded a contract to design the Bethany Home for unwed mothers that later went through a series of name changes and is now part of the Walker Methodist complex at 37th and Bryant Avenue in Minneapolis.
VanDyck appears never to have married; he died at age 74 on May 23,1941, in Minneapolis. He was buried in the VanDyck family plot in Polk City, Iowa.
(1) US Census records.
(2) Polk’s Minneapolis City Directory; Alan Lathrop states in Minnesota Architects: A Biographical Dictionary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), 218-219, that VanDyck opened his own architectural office in 1911 and “maintained [the practice for] the rest of this life, except for a brief partnership with Luther Twichell in 1916.”
(3) Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Twin City Draughtsmen Form a New Organization,” February 1, 1904, 5; Minneapolis Tribune: "Tell of Clubs Plans," February 14, 1904, 7.
(4) Minneapolis Tribune, “VanDyck Told of Trip Abroad,” December 6, 1908, 50; passport records show that VanDyck applied for passports to travel to Europe in 1908 and 1918.
(5) Minneapolis Tribune, ”Friars is the Politest Club; Architect Members Cook; Consumers Praise Food,” December 12, 1915, 32.
(6) Minneapolis Tribune, “Architects Greet St. Patrick,” March 17, 1910, 13.
(7) Minneapolis Tribune, “Architectural School Will Be Established,” January 6, 1911, 1.
(8) Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Unique Open-Air Theater Built at Yankton, S.D,” June 13, 1915, 56.